Well besides airfare (the following assumes you don’t have luggage and only have a day to spend in Santa Barbara, California)…here’s how to do Santa Barbara in a day for $20.
When you arrive at the airport and walk down the lower level to exit, swing over to this tiny booth by the car rental stands. Grab as many magazines and “things to do” brochure’s as your hands can hold. I’m always a fan of these sections in the airport because it a free way of grabbing a quick overview of the hot spots in town. Plus it will give you some literature to read while you are sitting or have down time at various locations throughout the day.
The first location that your newfound reading material will come in handy is on the bus. Yes that’s right…the local public bus. Take the local bus from the airport to downtown Santa Barbara for $1.75 each way. Make sure you have single bills and coins with you as the bus does not give back change. The bus stop is literally across the street and the bus drivers are generally gracious enough to answer your questions and make sure you’ve hopped on the right bus. The journey down to State Street is about a 30-45 min ride. So relax, look out the window and read some of that literature! You can get an idea of where you want to eat or things you want to check out once you get in town.
There are plenty of quaint little restaurants and pubs to eat at with varying price points. I was able to find a spot (featured on Food TV) and eat brunch for only $8. Here’s my vegan burrito below!
Once you’re done chowin down take the electric shuttle to the pier for a whopping $0.50 cents!! Yes that’s right folks….two quarters will get you to the beach from State Street. There are little signs on the side of the road for you to stand by to catch the shuttle. Feel free to ask around if you don’t see them or the trolley perusing by.
When you arrive at the pier/beach, there are some free things you can do. For starters- the beach! Hang out here as long as your heart’s desire. When you’ve had enough fun in the sun, walk up and to the end of the pier and watch the many fisherman catch all kinds of fish and crab. There are a few shops and a marine museum there as well that you can check out (side note: I am unsure if the museum is free).
After you’ve worked up an appetite from all the walking and beach activity, treat yourself to some good ole fish ‘n chips on the pier. You can grab a to-go order from one of the restaurants on the pier for $8 (may or may not have been a special price).
My guess is by this time you are full and and ready to head back for the day. For which you can take the electric shuttle back to State Street and the bus back to the airport. If not and you want to bust your $20 budget, there are plenty of shopping and extra spending opportunities. It’s really all up to you! Just know you can feel good having enjoyed a new city for less than your cell phone bill.